Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Facebook Government Privacy Your Rights Online

Assange: Facebook 'the Most Appalling Spy Machine' Ever 520

Posted by Soulskill
from the you're-just-jealous-about-the-time-magazine-thing dept.
i4u points out an interview with Julian Assange in which the controversial WikiLeaks spokesman calls Facebook "the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented." He continues, "Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to US intelligence. Facebook, Google, Yahoo – all these major US organizations have built-in interfaces for US intelligence. It’s not a matter of serving a subpoena. They have an interface that they have developed for US intelligence to use. Now, is it the case that Facebook is actually run by US intelligence? No, it’s not like that. It’s simply that US intelligence is able to bring to bear legal and political pressure on them. And it’s costly for them to hand out records one by one, so they have automated the process. Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States intelligence agencies in building this database for them."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Assange: Facebook 'the Most Appalling Spy Machine' Ever

Comments Filter:
  • for knowing every inane thought that crosses the mind of people I only vaguely care anything about.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday May 02, 2011 @07:07PM (#36005600) Journal
    I suspect that the relatively brief period between the breakdown of the 'symmetric transparency' of village and smaller social groups and the rise of the 'asymmetric transparency' of rationalized, technocratic surveillance will be looked back upon as a curious historical anomaly.
    • by macraig (621737)

      Does this mean you're ready to revolt or ready to restock the cave for a long timeout?

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:46PM (#36006412) Journal
        Neither, really. While I'm not happy about it, I'm of the very strong suspicion that the trend toward increased ease and efficiency of automated surveillance is an inevitable byproduct of technological development. Particularly excessive emphasis (as in the famous case of East Germany) before the technology is mature can cause collapse; but substantial increases in surveillance capability come more or less for free with technological development.

        Unless one feels like scratching out a marginal existence somewhere so lousy that technological society considers the ROI to be not worth the effort, there isn't much to be done.(Unless the energy runs out. Then everybody gets an exciting lesson in what "nostalgia" means.)
        • by martin-boundary (547041) on Monday May 02, 2011 @09:13PM (#36006546)

          but substantial increases in surveillance capability come more or less for free with technological development.

          I disagree. I think technological development is neutral, it can go either way. The real question is this: do the CS people who develop and refine surveillance methods outnumber and/or outperform the CS people who develop and refine ways to counter the surveillance?

          A smart CS graduate could work on better privacy systems, or on better surveillance systems. It's not all one way. Both problems are equally interesting and equally challenging. It's a black hat/white hat kind of thing.

          It's clear that there's a lot of money in surveillance, especially in the US which is so strongly controlled by the military industrial complex. So there are a lot of grants and projects to improve surveillance. But I think that's ultimately a social problem rather than a technical one. There needs to be a critical mass of people who are willing to fund and sell countermeasures, and create a self sustaining market available to all.

          For example, we have encryption widely available in software today because people were willing to stand up to the US government when they were trying to ban the technology.

          There are embryonic ways to sabotage data gathering efforts which everyone on slashdot has used before: filling out fake data in surveys and registration forms, etc. We need people to think up ways to refine these basic ideas into technologies that can reliably damage large scale surveillance efforts.

          • by Eivind (15695)

            Yes. But the direction is set more by corporations than by individual employees. And it's not a surprise that corporations tend to prefer solutions where they know a LOT about individual customers.

            Payment-systems is a big one, for example. (if you can follow and/or control the cashflow, you've got a LOT of information and a LOT of influence)

            But the systems being introduced today are almost entirely shaped by the interests of big financial institutions, and not consumers. For example, from the POV of the con

    • by 1 a bee (817783)
      True, 'though I imagine there will always be at least 'individuated asymmetric transparency': some people will be much better at 'managing' their transparency than others.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I choose not to be on Facebook because I don't want my friends to see me doing something embarrassing.

    I don't care what the faceless "agencies" know about me because I have nothing to hide from them, and it won't embarrass me if they know my dirty secrets, as long as they don't tell my dirty secrets to my friends.

  • by omar.sahal (687649) on Monday May 02, 2011 @07:12PM (#36005642) Homepage Journal
    Its funny but a device, the computer, that many clever people developed to free us and improve our lives is ruining our privacy and harming our freedoms. Even governments and their agencies are afraid, wikipedia allowed them to be spied on in an industrial scale, police are weary of cell phones with cameras etc.
    • by joocemann (1273720) on Monday May 02, 2011 @09:55PM (#36006784)

      The extra funny thing is that 1) Its voluntary, and 2) most people on facebook aren't thinking of themselves as criminals with things to hide.

      People VOLUNTARILY share this information. Sure its a society where privacy can be beneficial, but this *society* is actually very social. People are driven to share their lives with each other, and while many a smirk is made by joking about the uselessness of facebook, the truth is we are drawn towards it like a magnet of interest! The truth is, the people on facebook aren't afraid of being called a 'criminal' because they probably don't consider themselves as such.

      Now there might even be criminals using facebook to their own demise... Who knows... But unlike Assanage, most of us are living our lives without fear of some repercussion. And as we desire, we socialize.

      Once Corporations and Government become the same thing -- maybe its too late to undo anything and we'll all get our tattoos and serial numbers... I just used the last of my tinfoil on a nice dinner, so... well... so much for worrying about being made out 'bad', lol.

  • Reverse Wikileaks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by w0mprat (1317953) on Monday May 02, 2011 @07:15PM (#36005674)
    Facebook is like a reverse Wikileaks, leaking the general public's personal information back to shady corporations and government organisations. They really do have a detailed map of your digital life, and they keep all of it - the record goes all the way back to when you joined. A database of the lives 640 million people worldwide... the fact this information is so poorly protected is deeply concerning. Once you put information up there you don't get it back. I've said it before: http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1946656&cid=34845420 [slashdot.org]
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:37PM (#36006356)

      With Wikileaks, they decide what should be released about a company/government/etc and that person has no say in it. With Facebook, the individual decides what gets released. Anything you don't give to them, anything you don't post, doesn't get released. You don't want your phone number released? Don't give it to them. They don't go hoovering that kind of stuff up.

      The problem with FB seems to come from people's false assumption that their weak ass privacy controls mean anything. No, not so much. Basically, you need to assume anything you post anywhere on the web is public, and that goes double for social networking sites. So, don't post it to FB if you don't want the world to see it. Real simple.

      I have a FB profile, because there are things I'm ok with everyone knowing. All of it, with the possible exception of photos of me, is more or less public record anyhow. However there's not a lot on there. Many of their fields remain blank. That is because it is stuff I don't care to be public. I choose what to release and I don't really care where it goes, because I presume by posting it there I made it public to all.

      • by vux984 (928602) on Monday May 02, 2011 @09:21PM (#36006588)

        I choose what to release...

        Suppose you attended a party and elected not to say a single word. How much do you think I could find out about you simply by listening in on all your friends?

        Facebook doesn't need you to post. Other people can fill in the blanks for them. You don't decide what information they release about you.

      • by xnpu (963139) on Monday May 02, 2011 @10:57PM (#36007066)

        Eh. Perhaps Facebook doesn't decide, but my friends sure do. They post shit all the time that implicates me as participating in certain activities and being in certain places. And that's without me ever using Facebook myself.

  • Yeah, so? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by goodmanj (234846) on Monday May 02, 2011 @07:19PM (#36005716)

    Ain't nothin' on my Facebook but my name, my friends, and my random attempts at being witty. I don't care if the gov't sees any of it. If I did, it wouldn't be on Facebook. The problem isn't Facebook, it's that people -- including Assange, actually -- have a binary idea of security and trust. They think something is either totally secret and revealing it would be a huge betrayal, or it's all out there in the wind open to everyone. If you think Facebook is a privacy threat, you don't have to stop using it: just stop posting private stuff to it.

    Trust is multilayered. I have stuff I only tell my close friends. I have stuff I only tell my Warcraft guild. I have stuff I only tell my wife. I have stuff I keep entirely inside my head. And none of that stuff goes on Facebook. Facebook is fine for some sorts of privacy -- for instance, as a college professor, I don't Facebook friend my students, so I don't have to worry about saying something unbecoming of a professor. For other sorts of things, I use other sorts of communications.

    But I've been living in this sort of multilayered online privacy world for two decades now. Hopefully someday soon the rest of the planet will figure out how it works, so I don't have to deal with Assange's paranoid ranting, or college students who can't get a job because they're naked and/or vomiting on their profile page.

    • by Shemmie (909181)

      Ain't nothin' on my Facebook but my name, my friends, and my random attempts at being witty. I don't care if the gov't sees any of it. If I did, it wouldn't be on Facebook. The problem isn't Facebook, it's that people -- including Assange, actually -- have a binary idea of security and trust. They think something is either totally secret and revealing it would be a huge betrayal, or it's all out there in the wind open to everyone. If you think Facebook is a privacy threat, you don't have to stop using it: just stop posting private stuff to it.

      Trust is multilayered. I have stuff I only tell my close friends. I have stuff I only tell my Warcraft guild. I have stuff I only tell my wife. I have stuff I keep entirely inside my head. And none of that stuff goes on Facebook. Facebook is fine for some sorts of privacy -- for instance, as a college professor, I don't Facebook friend my students, so I don't have to worry about saying something unbecoming of a professor. For other sorts of things, I use other sorts of communications.

      But I've been living in this sort of multilayered online privacy world for two decades now. Hopefully someday soon the rest of the planet will figure out how it works, so I don't have to deal with Assange's paranoid ranting, or college students who can't get a job because they're naked and/or vomiting on their profile page.

      This, in a nut shell. The idea of privacy being some kind of binary thing is odd - it's not on or off. You would think that levels of privacy would be part of a healthy outlook on the World. There's stuff I trust to X I would never trust to Y. Some overlap. Some are mutually exclusive.

      Some if it I am willing to exchange for services. Be it certain information to Facebook for the services they provide, or other information to a gf for the services she would provide.

      • Re:Yeah, so? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:38PM (#36006360)

        It isn't as multi-layered as you would think. How much info can i find about you in 5 minutes?

        Hi paul. you are 29 years old, live in the Uk. work/have worked at a college doing computer-y stuff. You are a member of the pirate party in the uk which should narrow you down quite a bit. You might be a level 85 undead priest.

          I'm not saying you like to dress up in a fursuit, but...

        http://www.furaffinity.net/user/shemmie/

        If I devoted more time to it I might find your facebook page, email address and photos. Now imagine if I had started from the opposite direction. Facebook has way more information that you think.

    • They see Facebook as a new technology, like cellphones, and they're treating it like a phone or SMS. So they're saying the same things they would say on a phone or send over SMS. The thing is, phone and SMS data are usually sent to limited-function devices that can't easily store and reproduce this data.
      While the government may intercept phonecalls or text messages, the vast majority of people are much more likely to feel negative effects from a lack of privacy in their subsequent interactions with friends,

    • Re:Yeah, so? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KhabaLox (1906148) on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:20PM (#36006236)

      Ain't nothin' on my Facebook but my name, my friends,

      Someone said this up above, so I won't take credit, but "your friends" is the piece of data that is most valuable to intelligence and law enforcement. If one of your FB friends pops up on some watch list, the FBI can (in theory) log into Facebook and get a list of all his "friends." Now you are on an FBI watch list. Your employer may be interviewed, maybe your neighbor or co-workers.

      But hey, who cares if you have nothing to hide right?

      For me, the problem isn't the voluntary gift of this information from users (including me) to Facebook. It is the voluntary gift of this information from Facebook to the government.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        The problem with your notion is that the government has already revealed that they are reading the subject, to, and from lines on every piece of email. It's safe to assume they are watching every major IM network. So basically, they are already aggregating all of this information in an automated fashion, and whether you use failbook or not makes no difference whatsoever.

        • Re:Yeah, so? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by martin-boundary (547041) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @01:49AM (#36007542)

          The problem with your notion is that the government has already revealed that they are reading the subject, to, and from lines on every piece of email. It's safe to assume they are watching every major IM network. So basically, they are already aggregating all of this information in an automated fashion, and whether you use failbook or not makes no difference whatsoever.

          Is that so? So you're saying if the government snoops on millions of people, that means there's no point complaining that FB sells your data to shady corps?

          Life is not all or nothing. One thing doesn't excuse the other, and they're not both the same.

    • Re:Yeah, so? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by martin-boundary (547041) on Monday May 02, 2011 @09:22PM (#36006598)

      Ain't nothin' on my Facebook but my name, my friends, and my random attempts at being witty.

      Are any of your friends communists? Are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party? Anything your friends are involved in leads to you when your friendship graph is available for sale.

  • "Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States intelligence agencies in building this database for them."

    Excellent, so by playing Farmville I'm not only reducing my taxes (because they'd build the database anyway), but also contributing to the safety and counter terrorism efforts of my country.

    It's not only addictive, but patriotic.

  • ...duh.

    And as a corollary... ...so?

  • ... while keeping the signal. The thing about FB is it's all noise. None of the information that people put there voluntarily is worth a dam' to an intelligence organisation. None of it's validated. None of it is from a "person of interest" (unless you're interested in vain teenagers - but we have another word for people like that. And none of it is actionable.

    You might as well say that the local rubbish tip is a valuable source of information. There's just as much garbage as facebook has, but at least yo

    • The social graph is a very interesting thing to police and intelligence agencies. Just knowing who knows who can be very useful. That said, there are lots of dead-ends and rabbit trails on the social graphs....but it is a great place to start.
  • If you HAVE to use a social network, use Crabgrass. It's developed by our friends over at riseup (we.riseup.net), so we know it's safe!
  • This will not protect your privacy against government intelligence, but at least against most else. Do the BIG logoff from facebook by disabling you account instead of just logging off. Data is kept, and you can enable the account just by logging back in. A few seconds extra to log out, and your information is not shared.

  • Personally, I worry more about what various businesses can find out about me and other FaceBook users than I do about the government. The 4th Amendment works fairly well at keeping the government from doing "fishing expeditions" and I don't have a problem with the government getting access to data if they have a warrant based on probable cause. These restrictions don't apply to businesses that buy their way into FB to do data mining or that create cute little applications that require that you reveal everything to them in return for accessing the application.

    I consider very carefully whether or not to reveal any personal information on FB beyond what I need to "show" so that people can find me. Most of this information is publicly available (i.e., phone book type stuff). It just isn't linked to me on FB where it can also be linked to my "friends." I'm going to do what I can to keep it that way.

    Cheers,
    Dave

  • Social Engineering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by airfoobar (1853132) on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:46PM (#36006410)

    I'm surprised no other people are talking about this aspect of Assange's remarks. Having a graph of the connections between (almost) everyone allows you a great level of control over how rumours and ideas spread in that graph, and as a result allows shady government agencies to socially engineer the public more effectively. I bet somebody somewhere must already have a computer model with all the connections in FB and is using basic epidemiology-style graph theory to calculate how to most effectively mind-control the dumb unwashed.

    For instance, if they want to indirectly influence some official in a certain country, they could try influencing the friends of his son, who will in turn influence the son, who will then exert pressure on the official. Or, if they want to influence the largest number of people possible, they work to influence the people with the most connections. You get the idea - except on a much larger scale (think six degrees of separation).

    I also have to wonder how HBGary's fake online persona "clone army" is related to this sort of thing.

  • by TimFenn (924261) on Monday May 02, 2011 @09:54PM (#36006782) Homepage

    "What are the differences between Mark Zuckerberg and me? Lets take a look.

    I give you private information on corporations for free, and I'm a villian. Mark Zuckerberg gives your private information to corporations for money, and he's man of the year.

    Thanks to wikileaks, you can see how corrupt governments operate in the shadows, and then lie to those who elect them. Thanks to facebook, you can finally figure out which Sex and the City character you are."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9LqnowYVQE [youtube.com]

  • by niks42 (768188) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @07:54AM (#36009006)
    One of the confirming factors of the hiding place of a certain recently deceased was that the compound had no telephone and no internet. Do you think in the future if you tried to live 'off the net' by not having a facebook account, twitter, gmail and whatever else, you might come under more scrutiny by DHS, FBI and so on?

    I already get strange looks if I pay cash for anything over a ten in the shops (but then this is the UK, competing for the title of the most-surveilled population on the planet)

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it is too dark to read.

Working...